14 Queen Street Woollahra, New South Wales 202502 8039 1500
|Opening hours||L Thurs-Sun; D Tues-Sun|
|Prices||Expensive (mains over $40)|
|Payments||AMEX, Visa, Mastercard|
I, for one, can see through their clever little scheme. The baked comte custard at Woollahra's new Vincent bistro is a blatant, manipulative attempt to push all of humanity's rich, creamy, cheesy buttons. This tall, free-standing cylinder wobbles like a strumpet on its way to the table, scattered with chives and cloaked in a creamy froth with a smooth, smooth, onion soubise on the side. It has the airy-fairy texture of something between a panna cotta and a souffle and a clean, nutty, almost caramel flavour that fills the mouth like a cloud. It's a cleverly conceived, almost perfect plan. But it's not going to work, because I'm just not that easy.
Turns out, it is going to work, and I am that easy.
One of Sydney's most successful small restaurant partnerships, Traci Trinder, James Hird and Todd Garratt, has kept things firmly in the neighbourhood with their new French baby. Slipped into the side of boutique hotel The Hughenden, it's virtually on the same Woollahra block as their popular Italian Buzo and tapas-and-tipples Wine Library. The long, narrow dining room spills out onto a covered front terrace, monochromatic in grey and white with black cushioned banquettes, bentwood chairs and marble-topped tables.
To the rear is a handsome temperature-controlled cabinet lined with row upon row of small, round cheeses, made in-house by Garratt and Hird. Head chef Jo Ward also knows the area well, having worked at Claude's before co-founding Bloodwood in Newtown. And the name Vincent? It's a portmanteau word of vin (French for wine) and cent (meaning 100). There are currently 50 wines on the list, so let's call it Vincinquante until the cellar is completed.
The kitchen has shrewdly tapped into the rich heritage of French bistrodom established by the 20-year-old Bistro Moncur down the road. So of course there is steak - heads would roll if there were not. Here, it's grass-fed sirloin ($34) sitting on its own warmer and topped with a beurre Vincent fashioned with herbs and spicy piment d'espelette, with a bowl of excellent, thin, crisp, salty frites. But a quick roll call shows that Vincent has its own personal take on bistroness:
● Potato baked in hay ($5): a whole Dutch cream spud topped with a lush smoked eel butter. Sweet and steamy.
● Pig's head terrine ($17): sounds rough and rustic but comes carpaccio-style, finely sliced and strewn with silhouettes of pickled vegetables. Needs a greater aspic/vinegar ratio to pig ratio.
● Quail en crepinette ($22): a bowling ball of quail meat and pork and chicken liver, flavoured with marc de Bourgogne and teamed with wilted radicchio. Love it.
● Poulet au vin jaune ($29): a winey, forest-floor braise of Holmbrae chicken with morels and mushrooms.
The wine list is all-French and all-in-French, a considered collection of on-trend and off-the-beaten-track, natural and biodynamic labels. There's a love affair with the Loire; seven different gamays (including a lengthy, intense 2011 Sunier Regnie Beaujolais, $81), and an homage to the mountainous Jura.
That cheese cabinet proves irresistible, and while a three-week-old round of goat and Jersey cow milk cheese in the style of St Marcellin is still a work in progress, the whole cheese program is very promising. There's also a golden savarin ($14) of booze-soaked sponge cross-culturally teamed with coconut sorbet and grilled pineapple for those who may have used up their annual cheese allocation with the entree.
Already the scene of birthday lunches and family dinners, Vincent is a breezy, measured take on French dining that builds on our love of bistro bonhomie, good wine and good cheese. As for that baked comte custard, world domination awaits.
Best bit House-made butter, creme fraiche and cheese
Worst bit Cafe salt and pepper shakers
Go-to dish Baked comte custard, soubise, onion powder, $19